Life sentence for pot? Missouri man serving lengthy term for marijuana

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MARYLAND HEIGHTS, MO. (KTVI) – Missouri and marijuana are not on good terms. A man faces a life sentence after being convicted as a persistent drug offender. More than 100 legislators are now asking Missouri’s Governor to set him free.  In the state, possession of more than 35 grams of marijuana is considered a felony and punishable by a $5,000 fine and seven years in prison.

Jeff Mizanskey is the only man in Missouri that is serving a prison sentence of life without parole for non-violent, marijuana-related offenses. According to the Riverfront Times, Mizanskey was given the lengthy sentence as apart of Missouri’s “Prior and Persistent Drug Offender” law, which is a three-strike policy. In 1993, police were after a drug dealer who hired two men to smuggled more than 100 pounds of marijuana across state lines. When police followed the smugglers to a hotel where the dealer was, they found Mizanskey, who already had two strikes on his record. The third gave him life without parole.

In this story

  • Watch FOX 2 News at 10 for an interview with Jeff Mizanskey.
We interviewed convict Mizanskey recently in prison. He told us, “I’ve seen some guys who’ve committed murder go and then come back and then go again. I’ve seen other guys for drugs, hard drugs and marijuana, come go come go come go two or three times.”

Now, the group Show-Me Cannabis is fighting to free Mizanskey and reform the marijuana laws in Missouri.

Show-Me Cannabis is not alone in the fight to legalize marijuana in the state, both for medicinal and recreational purposes. Others like Missouri Senator Maria Chapelle-Nadal are introducing legislation for legalization. According to KTRS, Chapelle-Nadal introduced Bill 560 in late February, a bill she said is based much off of the bill that legalized marijuana in Colorado.

She also said the bill would put a sales tax on the drug, which would help Missouri education and health care. Under the bill, stores selling marijuana would have to pay $500 for a license to sell, manufacturers would pay $2500 for a license to grow and the sales tax would be set at 12.9 percent. If passed, the bill would be in effect this August.

But this isn’t the first time a bill has been introduced in an effort to legalize marijuana in Missouri. In January 2014, Representative Chris Kelly introduced Bill 1659. The bill would allow individuals 21 years and older to grow up to eight plants and possess 16 ounces of marijuana per-household. The bill never got any momentum.

With Chapelle-Nadal’s bill, however, every part of the marijuana production is tracked from the manufacturing to the taxes. The hope is the bill’s outcome matches that of Colorado’s. In the one year since Colorado legalized marijuana, the state collected $53 million in tax revenue, according to CNN.

While the recreational use of marijuana may be getting more focus, there is a medicinal side to the drug as well. Heidi Rayl is the mother of Zayden Rayl, who suffers from Microcephaly seizures developmental delay (MCSZ). Rayl’s son Zayden suffers from grand mal seizures, which give him violent muscle contractions and loss of consciousness.

Rayl, with the help of Show-Me Cannabis are asking Missouri legislatures to legalize the use of cannabis oil, a drug which Rayl said can help her son greatly. The cannabis or hemp oil has already been legalized in Georgia.

One example of the workings of marijuana for medicinal use is Charlotte Figi, a young Colorado girl who suffered from 300 seizures a week, according to CNN. After taking the medicinal drug, Figi stopped having seizures and started to do things like tap dance. Rayl is hoping the hemp oil will be able to help her son.